Athena A. Drewes, Psy.D. & Sally Rhine Feather, Ph.D.
Originally published by Rhine Research Center1
Patsy, 14, reported “I dreamed one night this girl would wear a red and black checkered shift, navy blue shoes, which she never wears, and a white blouse. So the next day she wore those very things.”
Nancy, 15, shared “I often have experiences of ESP, such as knowing what someone is going to say, what song is going to be played on the radio and once dreaming that my sister, studying to be an airline hostess, was burned and killed in an airplane crash. I was in my room sleeping and was suddenly “awakened” by a loud noise.
In my dream I looked at my back window and there was my sister in her blue airline suit banging at the window in an effort it seemed to either get in or out of something. The sky was a mixture of red and orange. The next instant I was looking out my front window and there she lay, all black and charred upon our sidewalk with bits of the airplane around her. The sky was dark and smoke was all around. I then awoke remembering this. About two weeks later a plane crashed with one survivor. My sister had been on a late plane and had just missed this ‘doomed plane’
Fred, 10, reported while walking down the street talking with his friend, they both suddenly began singing the same song, at exactly the same moment with no radio on.
Could such experiences reflect psychic abilities in children and teens? Can children pick up another’s thoughts, know about distant events or even know what might happen in the future? Research in parapsychology, the study of such phenomena, has some interesting answers.
Dr. Louisa Rhine and her husband, Dr. J.B. Rhine, noted founder of experimental parapsychology, helped bring credibility to the study of psychic phenomena. Together they scientifically studied psychic phenomena at Duke University and established that psychic abilities were indeed real. Dr. Louisa Rhine’s major contribution is as the foremost researcher of spontaneous psychic experiences with a legacy of over 30,000 letters received from “everyday individuals” worldwide. The author of numerous books and scholarly articles, The Invisible Picture (1981) summarizes years of spontaneous case study. Psi: What is It? (1975), primarily for children and teens, helps makes psychic experiences understandable. Research in parapsychology continues across the world, with followers of Drs. J.B. and Louisa Rhine continuing their work at the Rhine Research Center.
What exactly is psychic phenomena or psi? How does it happen?
Psi is the ability to perceive and obtain information about others and events beyond the five physical senses of sight, sound, touch, hearing, and smell. Often it has been referred to as the “sixth” sense or “extrasensory perception (ESP)” and includes telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and psychokinesis. Telepathy is the simultaneous extrasensory knowledge of another person’s thoughts or activity. Clairvoyance is extrasensory knowledge about objects, places or events currently happening. Precognition is the prediction of random future events through dreams, waking images, or knowledge, which cannot be inferred from present information. Psychokinesis or PK is the direct mental, but not physical, influence on physical objects (such as mentally bending a spoon).
Could children and teens be more psychic than adults? There are numerous cases involving children’s extra-sensory perception (ESP). Perhaps children are more open-minded and less skeptical about such experiences.
Research has not found any age group having more psychic ability than another. There have been numerous significant school studies about telepathy and clairvoyance with teachers and students. Other studies have shown significant telepathic experiences between children and mothers. Neither age nor developmental level seems a critical factor in enhancing or limiting psychic abilities. However, personality differences seem to affect the scoring of children and adults. Withdrawn children score significantly lower than non-withdrawn. As with adults, children who are “believers” in ESP score higher than nonbelievers, with nonbelievers significantly below chance!
Children and teen letters written to Dr. Rhine and analyzed by Dr. Drewes showed 65% from females and 35% from males between 10-18 years, with 14 years the average. Out of 157 reported experiences, 77% were precognitive, with dreams or intuitions. Less frequent was telepathy (10 %) and clairvoyance (14%). These results were similar to those found in adult case studies. The school-age children’s precognitive experiences contained strong emotions and “stuck” in the person’s mind. What was even more striking across the three categories was that children’s experiences were usually about a friend or acquaintance (47.4%) rather than immediate family (13.3%). This is in marked contrast to adult letters with experiences (65.4%) mainly about immediate family.
School-age children were more concerned about trivial items (54.1%) by adult standards. Psychic experiences focused on grades, clothes, relationships, and school and less about death, serious injury or illness of another. Interestingly 8.9% of the psychic experiences were about family pets being harmed or dying. Analyses of the adult letters found quite the opposite, with adults’ psychic experiences about death and the health and well being of family members. One explanation for this difference is that teens are more connected to peers, while experiencing age-appropriate separation and individuation from parents. It would be normal at this stage for peers to replace family. Peers become the center of social and leisure activities and interests. And teens spend almost a third of their time and much emotional investment in the company of friends.
Interestingly, adults report their psychic experiences are frequently about their children or family over friends or peers. One example is from Susie, age 35, who was pregnant with her second child. Certain it would be a girl, and while awaiting results from a test, she began picking out girls’ names. She had the following precognitive dream about her unborn child. “In the dream I saw a baby gift being wrapped in pink paper. I kept trying to wrap the gift with pink paper, but it kept being wrapped over with blue paper. No matter how hard I tried to wrap the gift in pink paper, it would keep coming out wrapped in blue paper. Finally, in the dream, I said to myself, “Ok, ok. I guess I will be having another boy! Then I awoke”. That very next day, the results of her test showed she indeed was going to have a baby boy. Another example, is from Kara, who reported that while on a trip without her children, she had the strongest feeling of danger and concern regarding a younger son. She called home, only to find out, that he had gone to the hospital with the grandmother, as he had suddenly developed a very high fever.
Many mothers believe intuition combined with reading subtle behaviors and expressions explains parent-child communication. Jan Ehrenwald, MD who has written on psychic phenomena, believes that psi phenomena has a role related to the survival of the human species and functions most strongly in the mother-child relationship. “The traditional, conventional explanations are that there are unconscious movements, facial expressions, or whatever which contribute to the communication. But telepathy is a strong element, although it is overlooked.”
Most psychic experiences are about everyday events. Psychiatrist, Dr. Berthold Schwarz documented over 1,500 examples of psychic occurrences with his own children from infancy to teen years. In his book, Parent-Child Telepathy, he recounts that while in the kitchen one day, he silently read the label on a can advertising drinking glasses. His daughter, Lisa, who was then two and half years old, in her highchair nearby, suddenly exclaimed, “new glasses, new glasses”. Or that of another mother, Maria, who had a strong headache. She was too preoccupied keeping a close watch on food cooking to stop and get an aspirin. Suddenly, her six-year-old daughter Jennie came over with an aspirin and water and gave it to her, without comment or being asked to. Such incidents are typical of what many families encounter on a day to day basis. However, there are times when experiences can be quite startling.
Danny was four years old when during a car trip with his mother the traffic stopped with some problem up ahead. While waiting, he suddenly said to his mother, “why does that lady have blood on her?” His mother quickly looked outside the window and all around, but did not see anyone. When she inquired further, he replied that “she is standing outside the window, bleeding, with a bike helmet on, and she looks sad.” Soon traffic began to move and indeed an accident had occurred. They did not know what happened. The next day the mother read in the newspaper that a woman riding a bicycle had been hit and killed by a car about a half-hour before they encountered the traffic. Danny had not known this woman.
A child’s psychic abilities could be confusing or upsetting to the parent or child. It may even run counter to family or religious beliefs. It could also create strain between a parent who accepts the phenomena and another parent or family member who doesn’t. For children, such conflict can create confusion over their abilities and result in not talking about them. As consultant to the Rhine Research Center and Parapsychology Foundation in New York, Dr. Drewes helps parents and children understand their experience. Connie, in a recent conversation, commented on how she as a child had various psychic experiences, and now her daughter, age three, was showing similar signs. “My family thought I was strange and even a bit crazy. They were not truly supportive and even laughed at me. I know I am not a freak. And my psychic experiences have often been helpful to me in many ways. I don’t want my daughter to suffer what I went through or feel desperate and confused because peers or adults do not believe her or tease her”.
How should you respond if your child shows psychic abilities?
A psychically gifted child is not odd or weird. He or she is talented, but looks, acts, and plays like any other child. The difference is that psychic abilities are so pronounced, they cannot be hidden. The child cannot control them and may misunderstand them. Psychically gifted children may also be easily affected by the emotional states of others. Because the child cannot create strong defenses, feelings of vulnerability, confusion or hurt can result from others reactions. Psychically gifted children are often bright, perceptive and may express “unworldly” insights.
There are many ways in which parents, teachers or friends can help psychically gifted children begin to understand their abilities.
Listen without judgment. Create an accepting atmosphere with understanding and caring so your child will not be afraid to speak of their experiences. Try not to display your disbelief, fear, worry or embarrassment. Otherwise your child may avoid talking to you. Casual comments such as, “Oh you picked up what I was thinking,” or “Tell me more about your dream and why you think it will come true” help offer encouragement. Do not force your child to explore or consciously develop psychic abilities if they do not wish to.
Normalize the experience. Let your child know such experiences happen to other children and adults, and there are books and research available. Be matter of fact about the experience. Let your child know you can help them get answers to their questions. Contact the Rhine Research Center (www.rhine.org) or the Parapsychology Foundation for information or someone to talk to. In addition to the books by Dr. Louisa Rhine, Samuel H. Young’s Psychic Children, and Is Your Child Psychic? by Alex Tanous and Katherine Fair Donnelly and Develop Your Child’s Psychic Abilities by Litany Burns offer some helpful information.
Do not force your child to “perform”. Psychic experiences are spontaneous and cannot be controlled at will. Being pushed to produce “on demand” may diminish the very thing parents wish to encourage. It is a tool and not an end in itself. Never focus on using psychic abilities for personal gain or at the child’s expense. Abilities could decline or your child might resort to fraud in order to keep adult attention and praise.
Put psychic abilities in perspective. The child should be helped to understand that while they may be psychically talented there are other things to learn and other talents to develop. Help your child to understand that these abilities are just like any other talent like being a gifted musician, artist, or athlete.
Keep communication open. If your child tells you about a psychic experience, accept what has happened, whether you believe it is coincidence or otherwise. Try not to be negative, or your child may not approach you again about another experience.
Keep a journal. Encourage your child to record psychic events. Write them down with as much detail as soon as possible. Over time patterns emerge which help distinguish what is a psychic event. Include documentation to help check accuracy and how long it takes for precognitive events to “come true”.
Try out simple ESP games. They can be enjoyable and fun for all.
Guessing Games: Try having your child guess a word you are thinking or draw a picture of an item being thought or looked at. Reverse roles and see if you can guess what your child is thinking.
Card Games: Make a deck of Zener (available from the Rhine Research Center, www.rhine.org) cards using 25 index cards. Draw one symbol on each card, with five cards each of a star, three wavy lines, a cross, circle, and square. Mix the cards and have one person concentrate on each card while the other concentrates and calls out what they think the symbol is (telepathy) for all 25 cards. Record each response and repeat the game a second time. For clairvoyance, shuffle the cards then put them face down. Have one person guess each card, just before it is turned over, without anyone looking at it ahead of time.
See how many “hits” you’ve made! A score of 5 out of 25 is considered chance, the usual number when no psi phenomena occurs. A score of seven or higher (“psi hitting”), or four or below (“psi missing”) can indicate psychic ability.
Candy Game: The use of M&M candies is another fun way to test psychic abilities. They can be used like Zener cards with the same scoring. Place five M&M candies each of five different colors, for a total of 25 candies, in a brown (not see-through) paper bag. Set the game up for your child to guess which candy will be selected next (precognitive) or which candy has been selected and is being held in the bag by you (clairvoyance). Once the color is guessed, you can show it but then replace it, keeping 25 candies at all times. You could give a similar color candy as a reward from extra candies, which could be eaten! Play the “game” twice and see if the score goes up. Research by Dr. Drewes, with Dr. Sally Drucker, showed that brighter children do better on the second trial of 25 guesses, using M&M’s, after getting rewards for correct answers during the first round of the “game”.
The authors welcome hearing from children and parents about their psychic experiences. Contact Dr. Drewes or Dr. Feather at firstname.lastname@example.org.